Riding a bike, making a fort in the living room and playing hide and seek seems to becoming a thing of the past. Our family has had MANY discussions lately about over scheduling children. I am not claiming to be an expert; I just have a strong opinion on the subject because I have seen firsthand what it does to a child. After reading many articles on the subject I have come to the following conclusions:
- Decision making – Children don’t know how to make decisions for themselves because there is always a coach, teacher or parent close by to help them sort out what they should be doing next. This often leads to hearing the statement “I’m bored”
- Family relationships – If we are constantly running from one activity to the next when do we have time to read, play board games or just hang out and get to know our children? We need to be known for having a relationship with our children, not for being their taxi drivers.
- Creativity is lost – Unstructured, unscheduled play gives children the opportunity to learn and express their true personalities. We need to give children the time to explore, be goofy kids and learn how to occupy their time when they are bored.
- Undue stress and anxiety – Expecting your children to constantly perform, tryout and the running from one activity to another gives their body and mind no time to slow down. This can weaken the immune system leaving them open to constant illness.
What can we do?
- As parents, we need to stop putting pressure on each other. Often the first question parents ask others is “what activities is X doing?” and if you answer with “nothing” you receive a puzzled look. Lets agree to give each other a break.
- Realize that the most important relationship for your child to have is one with you and your family.
- Look at the variety of activities available to your child and choose based on activity and the investment of time and energy everyone will have to put in. If you have to use a calendar and constantly coordinate who is going to be where and when, it is too much.
- Ensure you have “family” time. This includes time spent with extended family as well. Children will learn a lot from having relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
- Don’t plan anything. Sometimes you need to let the day unfold as it may. This may involve going on a hike, playing a board game or doing a craft.
- Realize you aren’t perfect and this parenting thing isn’t easy. Do what is right for you and your family and don’t let others make you doubt your decisions.
I do think there are benefits to having your child in extracurricular activities. Children can learn team work, develop new skills and learn about competition. I just think everything needs to be done in moderation and nothing should come before family time. How do you select which activities your children should be involved in?